Celebrating Bengali New Year: Then and nowLate seventies and early eighties. My brother and I used to be very eager. We used to be waiting for the evening. The mercury of excitement rose slowly but surely. At around 5 p.m, my mother brought clean clothes. After wearing clean clothes, we used to visit the shops with my father, from where my parents used to purchase clothes, books and other essential items every month throughout the year. The invitation letters were with my father.
We were welcomed by the shop-owner. First we used to have 'prasad' of Ganesh-ji who was worshipped in the forenoon. Then my father used to clear the pending bill of that shop. Thereafter a big packet of sweets and a Bengali calendar were handed over. After bidding good-bye, we departed for another shop. We also used to visit book-shops of College Street, where Bengali New Year was celebrated in a grand style.
The tradition of Bengali New Year ('Halkhata') started becoming extinct during early nineties itself. The Bengali shop-keepers started accounting according to the English calendar. Nowadays, Bengali children don't even know the current Bengali year. Now, on this day, Bengali gentries wear 'dhuti-panjabi' (dhoti-kurta) and ladies wear Bengali 'sarees', visit any Bengali cultural programme for fifteen minutes or so, and send copied Bangla messages to one another. I don't know whether Bengali shop-owners still worship Lord Ganesha on Bengali New Year day, or not.
The old, simple Bengali 'Halkhata' has bade us 'Good-bye'. When, nobody knows.